Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I hope you will join me...

It has been well over a year since I last added to our blog.  Like many things in life, it requires dedication, commitment and planning.  Like many things, this can all be undone by the unknown and once that effort is off the path of “wash, rinse, repeat” it can be very challenging to get back on track. 

So, with that said, I am going to attempt to resume consistent weekly commentary on the world of charitable giving, most particularly charitable support of higher education. 

I am going to begin with sharing my thoughts on the current giving environment.  Things look decidedly up!  Overall dollars given to charity continue to grow year over year.  Historically, giving has tracked employment numbers as the majority of donors give from household operating, not savings.  Obviously, the most significant gifts come from investments and other donor assets but the majority of donors, and 90% of college graduates are donors to someone, give when they have money to do so with. 

The last decade was the most challenging job market since the 1930s and the explosion of not for profit organizations that accompanied that decrease in employment opportunities has put tremendous pressure on donors to support organizations dependent upon philanthropy.  This has come even as donors confidence in their personal finances has declined.  While employment numbers have slowly recovered, salaries and overall incomes have remained flat or ticked up marginally. 

This slow or no growth has been masked in philanthropic circles by the overall increase in number and spend from the non-profit world on marketing and soliciting gifts.  This has been combined with the exceptional growth of leadership annual giving resulting from the unbridled growth of the stock market over a similar time period.  For most educational entities, the impact has been most visible in the form of declining or flat participation rates.   Many of us have fewer donors or at the best, lower percentages of folks giving even if our absolute donor counts have remained static.  The good in all of this is that job numbers and expectations for the next 18 months indicate a tightening market, increasing salaries and a resumption in strength of opportunities available, shifting some of the leverage from employers to employees and that is a crucial component to growth in gifts from the little guys who make up most of our donor populations. 

Over the next couple of weeks, I will suggest some strategies and approaches that can be simply and readily implemented the next time you sit down at your desk.  I am going to break these up into pieces based upon goals, investment needed and outcomes desired.  I hope you will join me in thinking about where we are and what it will take to get where we would like to be as opportunities and competition for household assets both grow.